“I daresay we’ve heard a bit about original sin, but not nearly enough about original glory, which comes before sin and is deeper to our nature. We were crowned with glory and honor. Why does a woman long to be beautiful? Why does a man hope to be found brave? Because we remember, if only faintly, that we were once more than we are now. The reason you doubt there could be a glory to your life is because that glory has been the object of a long and brutal war.” John Eldridge, Waking the Dead, Chapter 1, Arm Yourselves
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The Usual Suspects
I had a friend recently confide in me that her life is no longer making sense. Up until now, her education had led to a stable career path with plenty of room for growth. Her company was in good financial standing; all was well. She put in the hard work, and productive results followed. But then, the financial foundation began to crumble. Blame started, leadership became corrupt and layoffs were happening all around. There was no longer a path toward promotion, rather, you were lucky to just be on the road at all. The hard work stayed the same, even increased. But the results no longer followed.
As I listened, I knew the feeling all too well. The sense that your life’s work needs to take a new direction, but there are none available. And for those that were less lucky, the full on disorientation that job loss has on your identity.
Usually I’ve categorized these experiences as a realization that we are not in control. They tend to hit whenever the familiar formula stops working. “I am the best qualified – why didn’t I get the job?” “I am in perfect health – why this diagnosis?” “I’m doing everything right – why can’t I meet someone?” “I’m still praying, but nothing’s changing.” The problem is that once we reach this conclusion – this cynical loss of control, and the only guarantee in life being that there are no guarantees – there is nowhere to go from there. Just a massive metaphorical throwing your hands up in the air. Yup, that’s life – nothing we can do about it.
So we continue to walk through life, but with our guard up, or we work twice as hard. Or we find a new hobby to throw ourselves into. Sometimes, we are blessed with answers to prayer, even miracles. But sometimes, life’s just rough. So we lose hope. And life feels blurry and unpredictable. Our days are clouded with anxiety, loneliness, unspeakable joy, addictions, unexpected blessings, depression, distractions, self-centered living. But it’s just a big, gray mess and you never know what each day will hold.
What John Eldridge offers in this first chapter is a wake up call to recognize the war that is going on around us. To no longer see it just as a gray blur, but as two opposing forces, warring for your soul. And not your eternal soul, no, that is secure. The war is for our time and attention in this life. For our opportunity to be fully alive right now. It is so easy to dismiss that there are two active forces that oppose each other. We know and love God. But we would rather forget about the other side. It reminds me of the brilliant quote from the Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” Odd as it sounds, it's rooted in truth. Being unaware of the opposition means not actively fighting it. It displaces the blame onto God, ourselves or other people. And it keeps us busy fixing, or fighting, but not really living.
Another area where we can get tripped up is forgetting our value. We may hear that God loves us all the time. But if we are constantly having to reconcile that against the tragedies that happen to us, some part of us starts to discredit that love. We start to think, Well, God gives me some blessings, so He loves me only this much... But when you see yourself as standing in the middle of a great battlefield, with a war going on for your heart and your freedom, the situation changes. We feel we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. And what do we go to war over? Trivial matters? No. We only go to war for the people that we love and can't live without, for freedom, for something of immeasurable inherent value. We are that treasure.
And for us to wake up, and start really living, is not only an act of bravery, but of downright rebellion against the comfortable distracted living the enemy would prefer we continue. What happens each time we see ourselves in a mirror? We are probably thinking it's time to schedule a hair color appointment. We don't really see ourselves. Both sides of this war see us as we truly are: Image bearers of God. And we have to know that - really know who we are in the deepest sense - to be both a brave warrior and a rebel, and to join in the fight.
- Bekah Arias